It can seem a bit tricky to save money and support yourself on a student budget. How are you supposed to afford food, books, rent and other activities if you have to attend classes every day? Fortunately, you don't need to miss out on fun moments with friends and eat instant noodles every day to stay financially stable.
Here's how to live on a student budget.
Whether you're a first-year or senior, it's essential to manage your food budget wisely. Don't worry, though. You won't need to eat only stereotypical university fare like cheap pasta and pizza. As long as you create a plan for shopping and meal prepping, you should be able to eat delicious foods and stay on budget. It's time to put your dorm kitchen to use. Plus, this part should be even simpler if you have a dining meal plan.
If you buy food for yourself, it's smart to start with a list and menu. You can look into various uni-centric meals that don't need much more than a microwave or toaster to cook. For instance, you can microwave an omelet in a mug in just two minutes.
Set aside a specific grocery budget so that you don't over-spend. Alternatively, take leftovers back to your dorm or apartment if you eat at a dining hall. This extra food could be your lunch tomorrow.
If you’re renting off-campus, you shouldn't live alone unless you need to for a specific reason. It's true that roommates aren't always the best, but it's better to put up with a messy bathroom than pay extra for rent and utilities. When it comes to your income, you shouldn't allocate more than 30% toward rent because you still have other expenses to manage. Two or three roommates can offset costs you'd have to pay if you lived alone.
You may have to live with strangers, but you shouldn't let those factors deter you from roommates. They're an easy solution to saving money and sharing responsibility when living off-campus.
Even if you don't need a part-time job to stay afloat, it's always nice to have extra cash. These days, it's not uncommon to find student workers — 14 million students work while in university and college. You could pick up a few hours at a local shop or try to find a paid internship that relates to your studies. Unless you're committed to several activities outside your classes, you should have some spare time to earn money.
Make a goal to set aside a portion of your paycheck every few weeks. You can use this money for whatever you need. The other part can be spending money for occasional activities like trips, takeout and more. You can even look for jobs in your hometown if you can't find any options at school. A few weekend shifts at a restaurant can bolster your budget more than any other trick.
There's a lot you can do to learn how to save money in university. The best tip may be to leave your car at home unless you need to travel often for work or school. Otherwise, you'll have to fork over funds for petrol, oil and general maintenance. These expenses amount to an average of at least $8,469 per year — which is more than £6,700 — and it's never fun to deal with a massive vehicle-related bill when you also have rent due.
Use public transport to travel around campus. It's an even smarter idea to walk when possible. If you know anyone with a car, ask your friends for a lift whenever you need to pick up groceries and offer them a few quid for their trouble. It’s far less expensive than paying for your own car at school.
These ideas on how to live on a student budget are only the start. You can make many adjustments to make saving money when living off-campus — and in dorms — a lot easier. Try these tricks to stay financially stable as a university student.
Alyssa Abel is a learning and career writer who talks about student life, mental health, job searching and more. Follow along on her blog, Syllabusy.
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